|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with (a) the Secretary of State for the Home Department and (b) others on assisting the travel of Chernobyl-affected children to the UK for rest and recuperation; what effect the operation of biometric visas will have on the case of such travel; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not held any recent discussions with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on this matter, but officials propose to hold a stakeholder meeting in the very near future at which these issues will be raised.
The Government recognise the value and benefit of allowing children who have been affected by Chernobyl to visit the UK for respite care. This is an important programme and we will continue to support the charitable work both in the UK and Belarus that facilitates these visits. In consultation with the charities we are actively looking for ways to minimise any difficulties that the introduction of biometrics might create. We had sought to establish a seasonal visa application centre (VAC) in Gomel Oblast through our commercial partner, Visa Facilitation Services (VFS). This would have provided a more convenient visa application point and a shorter journey for some of these children. Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure permission from the Belarus Government to allow our commercial partner to operate. Those living in southern Belarus might find it easier to travel to the
VAC in Kiev, Ukraine to lodge their applications. Our embassy in Kiev will make the necessary arrangements to cater for individuals or groups.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has received from (a) the Government of Belarus, (b) UK charities and (c) others on the entry into the UK of Chernobyl-affected children; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: I have received representations from the ambassador of Belarus, the Chernobyl Childrens Project, the Chernobyl Childrens Lifeline and several hon. Members. I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him today (UIN 158550).
Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which Minister approved the use of the section 36 exemption of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 referred to in the letter of 11 October from his Department to the hon. Member for Billericay. 
Dr. Howells: The opinion of a qualified person (in the case of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) this is a Minister) has not yet been sought and the section 36 exemption has not yet been engaged. The FCO will write to the hon. Member urgently clarifying its position in accordance with section 17(1) of the Act.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consideration has been given to the return of travel documents to visa applicants pending decisions in long-running cases. 
Dr. Howells: The relevant visa section will retain the applicant's travel documents until a decision has been made, as they are required to process the application. The applicant may withdraw their application at any time if they wish to have their travel documents returned.
Dr. Howells: Applicants are not routinely informed of the progress of their application, except in those settlement cases where a Home Office referral is necessary; in these cases the applicant should receive a letter informing them of the revised timescale.
If an applicant wishes to check the progress of their application they may do so by using the call centre or online service in countries where a commercial partner has been engaged. Where there is no commercial partner they may contact the visa section, in the country from which they are applying, using the contact details advertised on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.
The British Councils work in Libya focuses on helping to develop the Libyan education system and promoting English language skills. It does this through placing English language teachers in Libyan institutions and at the British Councils own teaching centre in Tripoli. My noble Friend the right hon. Lord Kinnock opened the new centre in September 2006. The British Council employs 32 teachers in Libya. The Council does have links with Libyan industry through its skills-development and language training programmes.
The Government are committed to building strong trade relations with Libya through the combined work of UK Trade and Investment and our embassy in Tripoli. In addition, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials are in close contact with relevant trade and business organisations.
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will reply to the letters of (a) 25 May 2007, (b) 25 July 2007 and (c) 4 September 2007 from the hon. Member for Weston-Super-Mare in relation to his constituent Mr. Ivor Chivers and his company Eco Solutions. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The hon. Member's letter of 25 May was received in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 29 May. The letter dealt with a subject on which the FCO does not lead and was therefore transferred to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR), previously the Department of Trade and Industry, on 30 May. I can confirm that DBERR are currently dealing with this letter and have also received the two follow-up letters. The official in DBERR dealing with the hon. Member's original letter can be contacted on 020 7215 6638.
John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department and the British high commission visa section in Islamabad will reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh West's letter of 26 June 2007 and further faxes of 26 July 2007 and 22 August 2007 on his constituent Mr Zahida Mubarik. 
Dr. Howells: The visa section of our high commission in Islamabad sent an e-mail to UKvisas regarding Ms Mubarik's application on 8 August 2007. Due to an administrative error both the visa section in Islamabad and UKvisas assumed that the other would reply to the hon. Member's representations. I apologise on behalf of UKvisas for the subsequent delay. You will receive a full written reply by the end of next week.
The information and evidence submitted with Ms Mubarik's appeal was reviewed by an entry clearance manager (ECM) on 27 September. However, despite new evidence being submitted, the decision to refuse Ms Mubarik's entry clearance was upheld. The ECM's explanatory statement has now been dispatched to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in preparation for Ms Mubarik's appeal hearing.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he is having with his Saudi counterpart on Arab League proposals for peace in the middle east/Palestine. 
Dr. Howells: We very much welcome the work by the Arab League to take forward the Arab peace initiative. The international community has a key role to play in moving forward the peace process. I discussed the middle east peace process with His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Al-Saud, the Saudi Arabia ambassador on 3 October. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary looks forward to discussing the Arab peace initiative further during the Saudi state visit later this month.
Dr. Howells: We remain concerned about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. We regularly discuss our concerns with the Saudi authorities at all levels. Human rights are also raised on our behalf by the EU, which has decided to keep the details of these discussions confidential.
We are committed to encouraging Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record and adhere to international human rights standards. The hon. Member may also welcome the recent increase in the activities by the National Society on Human Rights (NSHR). In May 2007 the NSHR published its first annual report on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, since it was established in 2004. This is a significant step forward.
In addition on 1 October, a royal decree approved the new Judiciary Law and the Court of Grievances Law. The decree establishes a Supreme Court and an Appeal Court. It also establishes five specialised courts: General, Criminal, Labour, Commercial and Civil. The Grievance Bureau is replaced by a new three-tier system, which also includes Appeal and Supreme Courts. We welcome this announcement.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will discuss with his counterparts on the Security Council the relocation of UN offices away from Geneva until and unless the Swiss Government has a more enlightened policy on immigration and asylum. 
Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his most recent estimate is of the number of injuries sustained by UK citizens travelling outside the European economic area in each of the last five years, broken down by type of injury. 
Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will estimate (a) the number of enquiries which his Department receives annually from UK citizens about injuries sustained outside the European Economic Area, (b) the number of these enquiries which are about compensation payments from travel insurance and (c) the number of enquiries that complain about non-payment of compensation due to an injury type that is not covered by standard travel insurance policies. 
Dr. Howells: During 2006-07 we estimate that our posts overseas received 2,888,996 inquiries, covering all aspects of consular work. Of these 1,941,454 enquiries were received by posts outside the European economic area. We do not keep a statistical breakdown by subject matter.
The Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England, which was published in 2004, was the first cross-Government strategy to prevent any further increase in alcohol-related harms in England. The 2004 Strategy has been extremely successful. It has put in place the mechanisms needed to deliver the Governments objective of reducing alcohol-related harms and has made considerable progress across a range of issuesnew police and licensing powers, the new voluntary alcohol labelling scheme and revised advice to women about alcohol and pregnancy, effective and popular advertising campaigns (e.g. Know Your Limits, Think!), creation of the Drinkaware Trust and improving alcohol treatment services, for example, the publication of suite of guidance materials, such as the Programme of Improvement and Models of Care for Alcohol Misuse.
We are already beginning to see the benefits of this: reductions in crime and city centre violence and early signs of an end to the continued increase in levels of alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, the review of the 2004 Strategy, which the Government was committed to undertaking this year, identified more that the Government can and needs to do.
The Governments renewed alcohol strategy, Safe. Sensible. Social.the next steps in the National Alcohol Strategy, published in June, sets out the long-term objective, to minimise the health harms, violence and antisocial behaviour associated with alcohol, while ensuring that people are able to enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly.
-ensure the laws and licensing powers we have introduced to tackle alcohol fuelled crime and disorder, protect young people and bear down on irresponsibly managed premises, are being used widely and effectively;
-sharpen our focus on the minority of drinkers who cause or experience the most harm to themselves, their communities and their families. These are:
-18-24 year old binge drinkers,
-young people under 18 who drink alcohol,
-Harmful drinkers; and
-To shape an environment which actively promotes sensible drinking, for example through a £10 million investment in a sustained information and communications campaign to challenge public tolerance of drunkenness and drinking that causes harm to health and to raise the public's knowledge of units of alcohol and ensure that everyone has the information they need to estimate how much they really do drink..
In addition, the Government are committed to commissioning an independent national review of evidence on the relationship between alcohol price, promotion and harm and, following public consultation, to consider the need for regulatory change in the future, if necessary. Reviews will also take place on the effectiveness of the alcohol industrys social responsibility standards in contributing to a reduction in alcohol harm, as well as on the effectiveness of the industrys social responsibility standards in contributing to a reduction in alcohol harm.
The Government have also announced in their Comprehensive Spending Review, published on 9 October, a Home Office public service agreement target to reduce drug and alcohol harm. This includes a new national indicator to measure change in the rate of hospital admissions for alcohol-attributable conditions, the first ever national commitment to monitor how the national health service is tackling alcohol harms through both intervention and treatment, which will operate from April 2008.
The Government are determined that the steps that are set out in Safe. Sensible. Social will shape an environment which will minimise the health harms, violence and antisocial behaviour associated with alcohol, while ensuring that people are able to enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|